Today’s psychiatrists and medical doctors can prescribe several types of medications to treat anxiety.1 How you respond to certain anxiety medications may differ from the results other people get, though. For example, you might find that hydroxyzine for anxiety doesn’t curb your symptoms even though it works well for some patients.
With the growing number of options available to doctors, you might want to spend a little time learning about the potential pros and cons of different medications. Keep in mind that while a drug like Xanax can treat anxiety, it and other medications have high abuse potentials that could lead to dependency or addiction.
About half of people living with mental illnesses will also experience substance use disorder at some point in their lives.2 Summit Detox and Mental Health offers a combination of mental health residential treatments and medical detox programs for people with dual diagnoses. Contact Summit today to learn more about treatment options for your unique needs.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that improve mood and lower the severity of anxiety by preventing neurons from absorbing serotonin in the brain. The higher levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, make communication between brain cells easier. It often takes two to four weeks for patients to feel the benefits of taking SSRIs.3
Some of the most popular SSRIs prescribed for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and panic include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Common side effects of taking SSRIs include:
- Loss of libido or reduced sex drive
- Blurred vision
Many people find that side effects only last for a few weeks while they adjust to the medication.
Serotonin-Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are antidepressants that block the absorption of serotonin and noradrenaline.4 Noradrenaline, also called norepinephrine, creates a state of arousal. Controlling the amount of noradrenaline in the brain could help prevent extreme states of arousal that contribute to anxiety and panic.
Some SNRIs commonly used to treat anxiety include:
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
While SSRIs and SNRIs have a lot in common, some people find that one class of medication works better for them than the other.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
Tricyclic antidepressants are some of the earliest medications developed for treating depression. The FDA has approved tricyclic antidepressants for treating depression, but some doctors also prescribe it to treat anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
If prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant for anxiety, you will probably receive one of the following:
- Amoxapine (Ascendin)
- Climipramine (Anafranil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Dozepin (Sinquan)
- Protripyline (Vivactil)
- Trimipramine (Surmontil)
Benzodiazepines prevent symptoms of anxiety by interacting with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitters to slow the nervous system. They can also relax your muscles and cause sleepiness. Most doctors only prescribe benzos for short-term use because patients can build a tolerance quickly, which can lead to taking higher doses.
Popular benzodiazepines for treating symptoms of anxiety include:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Midazolam (Versed)
Although benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium can stop symptoms of anxiety, you can become dependent on them rather quickly. If you find yourself relying on benzos and other drugs for anxiety, contact Summit Detox and Mental Health to learn more about making a treatment plan that addresses anxiety and substance misuse.
Beta-blockers might help prevent symptoms of anxiety by blocking adrenaline and slowing your heart rate. Some research shows success using beta-blockers to treat PTSD and OCD.5 However, they are primarily used to treat heart conditions.
Beta-blockers commonly prescribed for anxiety and similar mental health issues include:
- Acebutolol (Sectral)
- Atenolol (Tenormin)
- Bisoprolol (Zebeta)
- Metroprolol (Lopressor)
- Propranolol (Inderal)
Taking a beta-blocker like propranolol for anxiety might work best for specific situations. For example, you might take propranolol for anxiety before giving a speech in front of a crowd.
Since beta-blockers affect the heart and blood vessels, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking them. They could pose threats to people with low blood pressure, blood circulation problems, and slow heartbeat.6
Buspirone is an FDA-approved medication for managing anxiety disorders and treating the short-term symptoms of anxiety.7 It’s an especially useful treatment option for people with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but doctors also prescribe it for social phobia.
Researchers believe that buspirone curbs symptoms of anxiety by interacting with dopamine and serotonin receptors. It does not seem to interact with GABA like benzodiazepines do.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the first antidepressants and are still used to treat people who don’t respond to other medications.8 The drugs can limit the symptoms of conditions like panic disorder and social phobia.
Some MAOIs still prescribed for anxiety include:
- Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- Phenelzine (Nardil)
- Selegiline (Emsam)
- Tranycypromine (Parnate)
Doctors tend to try MAOIs as a last resort because they can take up to six months to become fully effective and often have strong side effects, including:
- Dry mouth
People taking MAOIs also need to avoid certain types of medications to prevent interactions.
Other Medications Used To Treat Anxiety
Some other medications have off-label uses for treating anxiety. For example, gabapentin for anxiety is more commonly prescribed to treat pain caused by nerve damage. Hydroxyzine for anxiety can also help curb unwanted symptoms, although it’s primarily used to relieve itching and swelling from skin allergies.
How Summit Detox and Mental Health Can Help
Anxiety can cause short-term and long-term disruptions that interfere with your life. Finding the right medication could help you find relief from your anxiety symptoms. You have a lot of options to consider, though, so you should talk to a professional for guidance.
Contact Summit today to learn more about how our medical detox and mental health programs can address your unique concerns and put you on a path to better physical and psychological health.
1. Garakani, A., Murrough, J.W., Freire, R.C., et al. (2021, June 17.) Pharmacotherapy of Anxiety Disorders: Current and Emerging Treatment Options. Focus: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://focus.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.focus.19203 on 2022, May 16.
2. NIDA. (2021, April 13.) Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness on 2022, May 16.
3. NHS. (2021, Dec 8.) Overview – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/medicines-and-psychiatry/ssri-antidepressants/overview/ on May 16, 2022.
4. Sansone, R.A. and Sansone, L.A. (2014.) Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors: A Pharmacological Comparison. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008300/ on May 16, 2022.
5. Cojocariu, S.A., Mastaleru, A. Sascau, R.A., et al. (2021, Feb.) Neuropsychiatric Consequences of Linophilic Beta-Blockers. Medicina. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7914867/ on May 16, 2022.
6. NHS. (2019, July 16.) Beta blockers. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/beta-blockers/ on May 16, 2022.
7. Wilson, T.K. and Tripp, J. (2021, Aug. 12). Buspirone. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531477/ on May 16, 2022.
8. Laban, T.S. and Saadabadi, A. (2021, Aug. 6). Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539848/ on May 16, 2022.